Monday, 12 September 2011

Radio. There are no pictures.

There are few things to ponder at 4am on a motorway.  Especially now it's autumn and therefore dark all the way.  The agenda is pretty much the inside of the car, the issue of keeping the car in the middle of the white lines and the thrill of a break in an hour's time at a service station with crappy shops at a time when they're shut.  Don't worry, you think, there's always the radio.  But there's not, is there.  There's a sequence of people desperately filling in time before they can press a button.  It's the sort of talking that you avoid normally.  Coked up talk, unnecessary jibber-jabber that assumes your interest.  They play music sometimes, but it's music they haven't even chosen themselves.  It's simply a terrible experience.

Radio may have been exciting in the era when everyone used flags and pigeons to handle their Comms strategy.  But today someone ought to get all radio people in a room and tell them to stop bouncing up and down in their chairs and laughing at their guest's jokes, because the medium just doesn't stack up.

For a start, no pictures. Those whose careers have taken them to this abyss of technology-lessness, will deny it by saying in some fat-arsed Uncle Magic the Magician way, "the pictures are better on radio".  But they're not better.  They are non-existant. It's radio.

This morning on TalkSport a man called in to complain because he'd recently been concussed by a man who was in drug rehabilitation.  He had an irritating, concussed sort of voice and I didn't want to know his rancid little story, let alone have anyone draw me a picture.

The trouble is, radio is not proper media all, it's essentially an outgoing voicemail message for a wrong number.  Worse, it has adopted all kinds of habits and stylistic repetitions that they assume we all think are cool, simply because no one writes in to tell them otherwise.

1.  Trailing sports programmes.  Instead of explaining the times and contents of programmes, radio insists on mimicking cinema and TV trailers by giving you an adrenalin-filled sample.  So they play the reaction of a commentator shouting his head off at goal from a previous match.  It is a vile and disturbing sound.  Would they trail the appearance of glamorous female by playing the sound of middle-aged men masturbating? Why, yes they probably would.

2. Attenuating voices to make them sound trendy and exciting.  Against the background of some throbbing music, a man excitedly lists football fixtures, or up coming celebrities, then suddenly, out of the blue, a girl's voice interrupts with a completely different EQ setting, sounding like she's trapped in a tiny perspex nightclub and she adds to the list, sounding all hot and turned on "Tranmere against Arsenal" or "Brian Blessed".  After which the man carries on.  What are they thinking? We're not fooled into thinking radio is white hot technology, you know.  We are still aware that is just a upgraded version of morse code.

3.  BBC.  The sprawling negative vision of BBC radio is to stop you listening to anything else.  Drive through my route up from Somerset and you scan in despair.  BBCs Somerset, Cymru, Bristol, Swindon, Wiltshire, Berkshire.  All droning on in the same charmless way, not that they have any reason to bend your ear, they'd just rather you didn't hear anything interesting that might make their jobs less secure.  Every text you send is schmoozed over as if condoning their right to stick that fat, corduroy vowels and Neil Sedaka classics in your ears all the way from Cornwall to Norwich.

4.  Repetition.  Who listens to radio for five minutes at a time? No one.  We're drivers, builders, sheet metal workers.  We listen for 2 hours at a time. So stop telling us the same fucking weather, FTSE index, trailers, news bulletins, traffic, guests who'll be dropping in, competitions, addresses, emails, phone numbers, every five minutes.  It's pure audio dung.

5. Getting jokey about tiny verbal slips.  Sadly, it seems radio announcers are the only people who genuinely believe in the comedic value of mispronunciation.  "Ooh I said that wrong."  "I'd better put my teeth in".  "Excuse me", "why what you done?" "Chance'll be a fine thing" "Easy for you to say".  Are we rolling around at the improvisational elan of these gifted raconteurs?  No.  We think they're drunk.

So don't get your hopes up.  The next time I go for a long drive I shall take the precaution of regarding the radio not as "media", like twitter and TV and gaming and things that are modern, but simply as a vital source of middle aged men with sadness in their hearts and no short term memory.

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